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Feb 1, 2019

Rehan wants to be a software engineer

Rehan wants to be a software engineer
Rehan wants to be a software engineer

Education is one of the most effective agents of change in society. When a child is able to go to school today, he or she sets off a cycle of positive change. But, thousands of children in India lack access to education and can’t even write their own names. (CRY India)

This is Rehan. He is 15 years old and lives with his parents in a makeshift shelter in the Topsia Canalside Squatter Camp, a narrow strip of land with huge open sewers running down either side. There is no proper sanitation, no toilets and the 2 drinking water taps (for 710 families) operate for just a few hours a day. Many of the residents here are rag pickers but all work in the informal economy: rickshaw drivers, fruit sellers, daily labourers. Illiteracy, child marriage, child labour, domestic abuse, alcoholism and substance abuse are rife. Rehan’s father is a rickshaw driver earning Rs3000 – 4000 (£33 - £44) per month. His mother is a housewife. Rehan’s older siblings have all married and moved away.

I met Rehan in Tiljala SHED’s Topsia community centre where he and 47 other youngsters gather after school every day for computer classes, remedial education evening classes and to meet as members of the Child Club. This group of young people astonished me: they explained how they are guardians of child protection in the community, how they recently had a child marriage stopped by going to the right authorities, how they know which children are labouring rather than going to school, that they know where abuse is happening. I asked them about themselves. Rehan told me he wants to be a software engineer. His friend Afsar is a talented dancer and would like to make a living from dancing. “If that doesn’t work” he told me “I want to be a policeman”. The girls laughed when I asked about marriage. Their mothers were married in their mid-teens, but the girls have bigger ambitions. Resham wants to be a journalist and Saika a scientist. Marriage is definitely not in the plan yet. All of them asked for English lessons.

Tiljala SHED is doing such amazing work in these desperately deprived communities and the ambitions of these young people are, to me, a potent sign of what can be done to lift society’s most vulnerable communities. There has never been, as far as we know, a single university graduate come out of the Topsia Squatter camp. Rehan and the others are determined to change that.

There is one more hero in this story. Rehan’s father, the rickshaw driver. From his meagre earnings he sends his son to a private English Medium School. It costs Rs600 (£6.70) per month and must be a huge sacrifice for the parents. But this is their investment in the future.

It is such a commonplace that the men in these communities are so broken by hard physical labour and the shame of poverty that they turn to drink and violence. “Oh, the husband is a useless fellow” my colleagues often say when I interview the women. Rehan’s father breaks the mould.

Tiljala SHED wants to do everything possible to support Rehan, his father’s dreams and all the bright ambitious young people in Topsia and the other rag picker communities where we work. But we need help desperately.

To provide each of the 600 children with remedial education, the child protection activities, nutrition, sport, computer classes, occasional excursions, access to healthcare etc. costs just Rs 1000 per month. Or £11per month per child

 

For a fraction of what we in the UK would spend on an hour’s maths tuition you could give hope to a rag picker’s child in Kolkata for a whole month.

Girls in the child club
Girls in the child club
Rehan and his friends - making a difference
Rehan and his friends - making a difference
Rehan
Rehan's home
Jan 30, 2019

How you are helping Parveen

Parveen
Parveen

Parveen is 25 years old.  She has five children and was recently widowed.  She lives in a shack beside the railway tracks close to Park Circus Station in Central Kolkata.

Parveen supports her family by rag picking.  She goes out into central Kolkata between10:30 pm and 5:30 am and scours the streets and bins for any dry solid waste (cardboard, paper, plastics and metal) that she can sell on to a dealer.  Typically she earns 200 rupees ($3) a day (and often less).   Since her husband died she has been unable to pay rent on her shelter and has fallen 3 months in arrears. The family risks being turned out onto the street.  Her oldest child, Simran, ought to be in school, but Parveen needs her at home to help with the smaller children and look after them whilst she is out collecting waste.

Parveen is in crisis: she doesn't know where to turn.  But thanks to you and this project, we can help get Parveen and her children back on their feet.  Your generous donations mean that we can provide Parveen with a weekly food parcel. This will include all dry rations - rice, flour, dal, salt, sugar - as well as fruit and vegetables, eggs and milk.  With enough food to feed the family, she won't have to go out rag picking at night. Simran will return to school and the whole family will have a much needed health check.

Once things have settled, we will start to work with Parveen to prepare her to take up vocational training and to set up a small business of her own under our very successful Livelihood Programme.  Over the last 3 years nearly 400 former rag pickers have turned their lives around by taking a small microloan to start a small business.  Read about the programme here. 

So please consider a special donation today.  I was with Parveen just last week and her situation is critical.  But hers is not the only needy family. We desperately need funds to help get very vulnerable families through difficult times.  

Thank you as ever for your generosity

Last week with all 5 children
Last week with all 5 children

Links:

Jan 15, 2019

"Thank you" from Shehnaz

Shehnaz "Thank you"
Shehnaz "Thank you"

To grow up the child of a rag picker puts you among one of the most marginalised and despised groups in society. Even within the slum where you live, you are at the back of the queue for water. In a highly stratified society you are right at the bottom. Shehnaz’s mother is a ragpicker. She supports her family of six by collecting cardboard, plastic, paper and metal waste from the streets and selling in on to dealers.
Unlike many other rag pickers Shehnaz’s mother wants her children to stay away from child labour and to get an education. All the children except Shehnaz’s disabled 6 year old brother attend school. We admitted Shehnaz to this programme because her mother couldn’t afford to pay for the additional tuition necessary for her daughter to pass her exams. Since then Shehnaz has passed her class X and is happily studying in class XI. With your support and her hard work she will pass class XII next year and have the opportunity to go into higher education.

I am particularly excited that I’ll be able to meet Shehnaz and all the other girls on this programme next week when I’ll be in Kolkata to catch up on all Tiljala SHED’s projects. So watch this space for up to date news.

Meanwhile Shehnaz and her family send a special thank you to our GlobalGiving donors and wish you a Happy New Year.

 
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